Admin note: This is an excerpt/preview of Ashley’s upcoming book of her experiences at her time in UBF that’s TBA. There are two main purposes of this article. 1. To show that there isn’t just one “disgruntle ex-member” as UBF claims and 2. To show the psychological consequences and effects of UBF in 2017 is no different than getting involved in UBF in the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, etc.
After moving to Long Beach, no less than the third day of school, I was stopped by a college girl saying, “are you interesting in studying the bible?” These words were like life to me. Immediately I thought this is Gods divine intervention again. Remember, I had ruined my life in San Jose, so for me coming to Long beach was supposed to be a fresh start. Before I left SJ I told myself and God that I would only focus on Him, my academics and dance. That’s it! So when I was stopped to study the bible I thought this is my chance to really get to know Jesus. I was ecstatic.
The following week we had bible study on the book of John. They were life giving words to my thirsty soul. God spoke to me in John 1:4- “In him was life and that life was the light of men.” (Again, my focus changed. I could see Jesus even more clearly.) I realized that Jesus is what my heart had longed for – for so long: Perfect love. But I was distracted by what the world was trying to feed me. I thought a man’s love is what would give me worth and make me happy and satisfied. I thought dance would give me purpose and meaning. I thought being famous and having lots of recognition would fill that emptiness in my soul. But I was being fed a lie. I had believed a lie instead of believing Jesus. And this King came back to restore what was lost. He is the one who gives life physically and spiritually. He gives me meaning. He gives me direction. He gives me peace. He gives me hope, and he is my hope. He is my future. He is my strength. He is love, and I need his love. He is the one who fills me up daily. He gives me comfort. He is my joy. He is my freedom. Hence, “In him was life and that life was the light of men” — that word from God poured on me like medicine pouring over a wound, it stung, but I could feel the infection of my broken heart and life being mended back together. It seemed as if my heart pumped for the first time and I realized He was everything- the creator and the sustainer all of things. He was King of all the creation and only in Him was real life. Also, in John 4:14– Jesus said “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” I was just like that thirsty Samaritan women. Thirsty for everyone and everything. Yet, Jacob’s well – men- only brought me more thirst. I was never quenched. Never satisfied. But each drink only brought more and more disappointment- developing a strange distorted image of what it was to love and to be loved. Yet, God made me awake to sin (idolatry) and I could clearly see the sinful life I was living- I was an enemy of God, but now I knew about the life that he wanted to give me- Eternal life! The best part of it all was that I had a desire to REPENT. I had a desire to be with Him. This life that Jesus would give me was himself- the very thing I was searching for and needed the most. He is the ONLY thing that would restore me. Nothing could restore me or bring me life like He could. Because he was Life. Period. I tried to store up many things, I tried to purse so many things, I tried to become many things, but they were the things that brought me misery and made a way for sin to traffic in and through my life. I didn’t want to live in darkness anymore. I didn’t want to sin anymore. I didn’t want to live a life of pursuing things that brought death after 1). Seeing the life Jesus was offering to me and 2). What he did on the cross that made it possible for me to have a right relationship with God. So I gave him my life so that I could have life together with him. I also like to describe this encounter as God stepping out of heaven and breathing on me with his sweet life-giving aroma. I was lost, but now I was found. I was blind, but now I could see. In that moment, I knew that God is who I wanted. I knew my sin would only make me go further into darkness, and I did not want to go that way any longer, but I wanted to live with him. That day I knew I was his daughter. I was given the gift of eternal life. I was no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ. For the first time He was my Lord and my God.
After spending the entire semester in the book of John (we only did 4 chapters because I would cry every bible study). My Shepherdess invited me to do Genesis Intensive, and I gladly accepted. I wanted more of God. I needed to be with Him- and if that meant to study the whole book of Genesis for 6 days a week for an entire month while only living on $200 dollars before I could move back into the dorms, I would do it! So, there I was Monday–Friday studying the book of Genesis. Friday testimony sharing at night and Sunday worship service in the late afternoons. It was a lot and very overwhelming. BUT I could not stop thinking about God. I felt his presence in the morning and I felt it at night. I even dreamed about Him. He was talking to me in my sleep. Lol It was amazing! Before I met Jesus, I had nightmares and an evil spirit followed me at night, and I had many suicidal thoughts. I wanted to die. Yet, now I could feel God’s holy presence. He was in me. Sometimes I would wake up praying or having a conversation with God. It was the strangest thing. Lol but it was so amazing to be with God after being in darkness for so long. (However, let me be clear that it is not about having some feeling, but I knew he was with me because my desires and thinking had completely changed).
However, when I started going to the El Camino UBF chapter, I felt uncomfortable. But I always thought it was because I wasn’t as holy as them. I loved testimony writing (most of the time), but I absolutely hated testimony sharing. I was a new believer and I really knew nothing about Christianity. Also, I was just starting to understand the churches “lango.” Nonetheless, I was forced to share my testimony even when I didn’t want to. A lot of times my testimony was incomplete or my thoughts were not fully together, but nonetheless I had to share due to pressure from my shepherdess. Then I just felt bad after every testimony sharing. However, there were a few testimonies that made me happy or I was happy to share them, but most of the time I felt so stupid going up there trying to read a page or half a page or something that was incomplete, while most people had like 4-5 pages written out. It was embarrassing and Humiliating. There was so much information in my mind that when I started writing my testimony on Friday I was in some sense burnt out. I was so overwhelmed and did know what passages touched me the most. Lol Honestly, they all did and I did not know where to start. Then on top of all that, I always felt like my testimonies were never good enough. My testimony just did not sound like the churches testimonies and you know what? So did everyone else. I could never quite get it the way they did it or wanted it- it was very frustrating. Then the torture to sit through 20 testimonies every Friday was horrid. I mean the meetings would last for 5-6 hours. Actually when I think about it – all we talked about was our sin!! The more sin you exposed the more applauses you received. However, when I look back at my old testimonies I found that my testimonies were really joyful- I was so happy to just see God and be with him. I did not focus on my sin problems as much as everyone else did lol I was just falling in love with Jesus- maybe this is why I never fit in because I simply didn’t focus on all my sin problems like the rest of the church. (Note: not everyFriday testimony sharing was horrid, some nights were amazing and I could see brothers and sisters in Christ really fighting against sin and transforming more into the image of Christ).
After Genesis, my shepherdess told me “ready to go fishing?” Again, I was ecstatic! Ashley, a fisher of men? Ashley, a bible teacher? Wooooah! I get to do something for God? I get to work for God? Let’s do it. I was all in. And there I was fishing on the CSULB campus; smiling and joyful. I was working for my father. I had done nothing for him my entire life, but now I could show my love for him by giving my precious time, energy, and talent. And the first time I went fishing I caught a sheep/fish, it was amazing. The life of fishing, teaching the word of God and having bible studies with my Shepherdess was great.
Then sometime later I was asked to be in The Pilgrims Progress Symposium. I was excited, but really nervous too. After reading the book and then interpreting my section for the Symposium, “Christian goes to Vanity,” I had to meet with my Shepherdess’ Shepherdess (who was a Senior Shepherd). We reviewed my section for Pilgrims Progress and my testimony for like 4 hours. And let me tell you it was the most gruesome thing I had ever experienced. It was not joyful at all to recall the moments Jesus had revealed Himself to me in His word, but instead I was trying to pull things out of my (sorry for being so explicit but it’s the truth)- butt. Everything in my testimony had to be a specific way. Sometimes she would ask me a question about my life- old and new and I couldn’t remember. I only remember what I remember. I remember lol thinking, “I don’t want to be here right now, I don’t even want to give my testimony. She was literally writing my story, it wasn’t right. This is not what I would say, this is not how things really went. It seemed like everything about my old life was trash and the importance was set on my new life. Though it may be true that my old life was trash before I really had a personal relationship with God or before I was saved, but there are moments worth mentioning. God was working in my life and preparing me to see him clearly and those things should be included. Actually, God loved this trashy girl. He was pursuing this trashy girl, to make her alive, so it is important to note what God was doing before I met him in 2012 through the book of John. Also, just the fact that someone was helping me write my testimony was very strange to me. But the reason why I needed help was because I could never make my testimony sound the way they wanted it. So of course I asked for help and plus this is how things always went. It was required that everyone had to receive revisions and edits to their testimony and message. Well not everyone, but most. Yet, it still seemed off to me. After reviewing my testimony, she had to review the message I wrote regarding my section in pilgrim’s progress, which is fine, but that review was even worse. She tore that into pieces. I thought to myself why am I even giving a message. Honestly, I felt like I wasn’t even ready to do something like this, but was being forced to do it. On the other hand, I wanted to do it because I wanted to share what Jesus had done in my life. It’s a celebration to share these things. Jesus saving grace in my life was a miracle. But if I had to go through such treatment from a senior shepherd, it wasn’t worth it. By the end of the revisions meeting, my ending paragraph to my testimony was the voice of my shepherdess’ shepherdess.